Head and Neck Diseases

Some Ayurvedic diseases of the mouth would seem to have a recognizably modern counterpart, among them (1) neoplasms of the lip (when the latter is described with raised areas of flesh that ultimately ulcerate); and (2) herpes labialis, with varicolored multiple small swellings. A condition in which the gums became spongy, retreated, and bled easily may have indicated scurvy, whereas another in which the gums and dental roots bled easily and gave off a purulent exudate may have been pyorrhea or periodontitis. Mahashaushira was a grave and painful condition in which teeth became loose in the gums, and the palate and the cheek were ulcerated. This seems to have been either cancrum oris or buccal carcinoma.

Impacted wisdom teeth, dental caries, and a situation in which the teeth were so sensitive that even touch was painful were also described, as were "gravel in the teeth" (tartar), and a condition in which destroyed teeth took on a blue-black color.

The diseases of the tongue discussed in the texts cannot be clearly divided into glossitis and epithelio-mata, and many symptoms were taken to be disease entities in themselves. Diseases of the throat are generally termed Kantharoga. Among those that appear to be discussed are diphtheria, peritonsillar abscess, carcinoma of the base of the tongue, laryngeal and pharyngeal cancer, acute stomatitis, and chronic laryngitis.

Specific recognizable afflictions of the nose include nasal tumors and nasal polypi, whereas those of the ear embraced deafness, otalgia, otorrhea, and tinnitus.

In the region of the neck it was thought that Vayu and Kapha can become vitiated and lodge in the muscles and fat. The result would be a swelling called Galaganda, which did not suppurate, enlarged slowly, and might produce a vague noise in the throat. This disease was clearly goiter. The vague noise mentioned may be the stridor of tracheal compression, though associated difficulty in breathing is not mentioned.

In the hot, dry climate of northwestern India, eye diseases have always been common, and thus the sections on eye diseases are among the most detailed and remarkable of the Ayurveda. These diseases are divided into two broad groups: Netrarogas, or diseases of the eyeball; and Drshtirogas, or disturbances of vision. Seventy-three Netrarogas are described, although some seem to be different manifestations of the same disease. Four of these, for example, seem to be forms of trachoma and two more forms of blepharitis. Various types of corneal ulcers are dis cussed, as is conjunctivitis and glaucoma. The Ayurvedic variants of a disease called Adhimantha are actually the progressive stages of glaucoma, producing a swift loss of vision if untreated.

The section on diseases of vision describes cataract and various forms of another disease that resulted in disturbed vision - possibly symptomatic of glaucoma. Other disturbances of vision included day blindness and night blindness.

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